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WEDNESDAY

It sounds like the plot of a roaring-good thriller: Olga Chekhova, the beautiful niece of Anton Chekhov, flees the Bolshevik Revolution and winds up in Germany. There she becomes a film star, consorts with Adolf Hitler, and carries on a torrid, doomed love affair with a dashing Luftwaffe pilot. Chekhova survives the fall of the Third Reich, but instead of being executed by the Soviets—as were most Nazi collaborators—she is allowed to continue her acting career in peace. Why? The theory is that Chekhova was actually a sleeper agent for the USSR. In The Mystery of Olga Chekhova, Antony Beevor—author of The Fall of Berlin—attempts to separate fact from the numerous fictions that have arisen about Chekhova’s wartime activities. Unfortunately, the fictions are far more interesting, and Chekhova emerges less a Russian Mata Hari than a well-connected opportunist with a knack for playing the angles. Still, Beevor’s vivid depiction of her artistic family—a passionate and Dostoevskian brood of painters, thespians, and spies—makes the book worth reading. Ask Beevor for the details at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Michael Little)